Who should lead a nation?

There are two types of leaders: boring administrators and inspirational heroes.

Who would you prefer to lead your country?

Personally, I want a boring administrator to lead my nation. Boring administrators fulfill the role of a national leader, which is to essentially ensure that schools are funded, rubbish is collected, hospitals are staffed and trains run on time. It’s a boring job, best performed by boring people. Politicians are public servants and the highest ranking politician in the land is the highest ranking public servant in the land. A highly-paid and famous public servant, but still a public servant.

Unfortunately, too many world leaders have forgotten this, and have succumbed to the temptation to be seen as strong, charismatic, brave heroes.

Politicians do paperwork. Ultimately, that is their job. They review current policies regarding public services. They draft new policies and negotiate to have them implemented. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum will strive to have their world view reflected in policy, but ultimately all of them are administrators.

That’s not to say politicians are boring per se. They can be as exciting and interesting as they want in their free time. They can front alternative rock bands, make funky art, do extreme sports or whatever they want, as long as they remember that when they are performing their role as a politician, they are supposed to be boring.

Brave, inspirational, strong and charismatic leaders struggle to combine substance with their style.

Donald Trump epitomises style over substance. His substantial fortune funded a slick public relations campaign which won him the election and kept him in office. He deliberately positioned himself as a strong, charismatic leader making bold statements to persuade impressionable voters to elect him. It worked. He even coined the phrase ‘Fake News’ to drown out the voices of reason, the voices of the boring administrators who offered the electorate statistics, facts and objective information gleaned from the boring paperwork they had done in their role as public servants. Trump reigned as a populist leader who was apparently strong and brave, and did nothing to serve the public. If you vote for strong leaders, you risk creating another Trump.

In Mexico some years ago, people vowed to vote for Enrique Pena Nieto because he is ‘muy guapo’, or very good looking. Perhaps not the best reason to vote for a president. It worked, though, and he became president, but few people would nominate Mexico as a land of public service efficiency.

Leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the UK and Scott Morrison in Australia have also fallen into the Trump trap. They posit themselves as strong, courageous leaders who can improve and protect their country, but forego the boring administrative tasks required of a leader.

Scott Morrison is called ‘Trump Lite’ and famously displayed his organisational incompetence during the recent Australian bushfire crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the damaging floods. A boring administrator would have saved many Australian plants and animals, homes and people’s lives.

Morrison also makes endless statements claiming to ‘stand up to’ fellow world leaders in times of crisis. He famously attacks China when his popularity wanes and pretends to be courageous towards the emerging superpower. The statements increase his popularity among gullible, impressionable voters (and the racists) who demand inspirational, brave leaders, but they are not the wise words of a skilled administrator addressing the country’s largest trading partner. A boring administrator would treat China appropriately, and protect Australia’s economy and exports.

Brave, strong charismatic leaders often need an enemy. They will often create one to appear strong, and this can manifest as real life conflict.

Morrison’s predecessor also succumbed to popularism. Former prime minister Tony Abbott flaunted his impressive muscular physique honed through daily exercise, and implied that it was central to his ability to run the country. Yes, it was impressive for a man of his age, but do you need a six pack to manage tax rates? He also promised to shirt-front Vladimir Putin at a world leader’s summit, before eventually shaking his hand and smiling. Not only did he fail to deliver his promise, he also placated voters who expect a leader to be physically strong and brave, rather than boring and intelligent. He also forgot that you can’t shirt-front someone who never wears a shirt.

Putin is himself a strong, charismatic leader. He poses endlessly in photos boasting of his physical virility and prowess. He portrays himself as a strong leader and he eventually believed his own hype. Experts attribute his invasion of Ukraine to his ego, and his desperation to be seen as a strong leader, in the vein of a conqueror determined to restore the glory of Russia and the former Soviet Union. If you vote for strong leaders, you run the risk of creating another Putin.

Strong leaders keep us safe.

This is a popular belief and refrain. Proponents point to leaders like Winston Churchill as examples of charismatic and brave leaders who protected a nation during times of war. Yes, a brave leader might guide us through a war, making rousing speeches of courage and resilience, vowing to face the enemy anywhere at any time, even on the beaches. But a skilled administrator, a boring public servant, could prevent us from going to war in the first place.

“She’s got no balls.”

You’d hope not, because then she wouldn’t be a she – but that’s a different discussion. The quote comes from an acquaintance discussing candidates in an upcoming local election, made in reference to the incumbent female representative. The conservative, middle-aged man believed the woman wasn’t strong, brave, confident or aggressive enough to lead their region.

Why?

They didn’t say. They just believed she had no balls. Clearly they expected a leader with as much style as substance, perhaps even more of the former. They didn’t want a boring public servant.

Media darlings

Modern politicians must exist within the modern media landscape. They must present well and this will force all of them to consider ‘optics’ before and during their political term. However, many politicians prioritise optics too greatly and neglect their duties. Only voters can prevent leaders from concentrating too heavily on optics and instead force them to dedicate themselves to their work.

Next time you consider who to vote for in an election, ask yourself:

Does charisma staff hospitals?

Does charisma care for the elderly?

Does charisma improve children’s literacy?

Does charisma make the trains run on time?

Does charisma keep wages high?

Does charisma create employment?

Also remember this:

Boring politicians do their job and let us get on with our lives.

Boring politicians are not noticed, except when they make mistakes. When the trains don’t run on time, hospitals are understaffed, school children are left without teachers and roads are full of potholes, politicians are noticed. They shouldn’t be. They should administer our nations and regions and remain in the background.

Boring politicians avoid the headlines. Boring politicians resist the lure of fame, they ignore the temptation of the perfect soundbite or witty retort at their opponents.

Boring politicians are more efficient. Thus, you spend less time dealing with their departments, and more time enjoying your own life.

Image: Aditya Joshi

Women required to wear Hi Vis in Australia’s Parliament House.

Women must now wear Hi Vis at all times in Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra after the seat of government was declared a site of high risk women. The new law comes into effect immediately and means that female politicians, staffers, bureaucrats, security staff, media, ancillary staff and visitors will be denied entry if they are not wearing some form of Hi Vis clothing.

“Parliament House is not a safe place for women,” confirmed a government spokesman.

“All women who work in, or visit, the seat of government must wear at least one piece of Hi Vis clothing at all times while they are on the premises, for their own safety.”

The law was created in response to various highly-publicised example of mistreatment of women in Parliament House, including allegations of rape, masturbation on other people’s desks, distribution of sexually-explicit videos and visits by prostitutes, as well as an underlying culture of toxic masculinity.

Authorities stressed the law was not rushed through after Barnaby Joyce’s return.

“It’s just coincidence”

The rationale behind the law is simple, according to its creators.

“Forcing women to wear Hi Vis is much easier than creating institutional or cultural change which would keep them safe. Forcing these conditions on women also allows the men who perpetrate crimes and offences against women, and those who protect the men, to blame the woman if she does get attacked or harassed, or mistreated in any way. A woman will never be bothered if she is wearing Hi Vis. Thus, if she is not, she can be accused of failing to take necessary measures and of breaking the rules.”

Hi Vis clothing can take any form, and authorities believe women will be happy to wear them.

“Hi Vis apparel comes in pink these days, so women will love it. We believe they will enjoy matching their Hi Vis with their outfits and make-up every morning.”

Critics slammed the new law, and said that if women are forced to wear HI Vis, then men in parliament house should be forced to wear a bell around their neck, the same way that cats wear a bell to stop them from killing native wildlife. The government replied:

“What a ridiculous suggestion. It would make us a laughing stock around the world.”

Government insiders also pointed another benefit of Hi Vis clothing in the halls of power.

“Hi Vis is normally worn by Tradies and construction workers, and they are now the most sought-after constituents of both major parties, so women are likely to be well received. Hi Vis is also worn by workers at mining sites, and we know how much the LNP, and even large parts of the Labor Party, love the mining sector and do so much to protect them.”

Authorities see only one potential problem with the introduction of the new law.

“Now we have to get ScoMo and Matt Canavan to stop doing so many photo ops in Hi Vis.”

Image: Aditya Joshi

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds.

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds is a delightful new TV series in which young children teach Australia’s federal politicians how to behave. The landmark series will be filmed inside Parliament House, Canberra, and follows the ground-breaking documentary Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, which aired on the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in 2017.

The successful ABC series followed a group of 4-year-old children during their visits to an aged-care facility. The interaction between residents and the children was proven to improve the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the elderly participants, and it is hoped the series at Parliament House will improve the basic human decency of politicians.

“The 4-year-olds will teach politicians how to behave,” explained the show’s creators.

“The children will teach politicians and staffers in the nation’s capital basic principles such as morality, fairness, honesty, equality, justice, tolerance and sharing – the basic values that early childhood educators instil in young children every day, and the kind of behaviours that are often called ‘Australian Values’.”

The multi-part series will take politicians and their staffers through activities designed to remind them that boys and girls should be treated equally, that ‘sharing is caring’ and that if someone was using the toys first, it’s not acceptable to just steal those toys and never give them back. Politicians will also learn that it is normal to share the sand pit and swing set with someone who looks or sounds different to you, and that bullying is never ok.

“Boys are now learning that punching or slapping a girl, pulling her hair or pushing her off the monkey bars is not a form of flirting or affection, that it’s actually a form of bullying. In light of this, children will teach the nation’s leaders that if they’re being bullied, they should tell an adult, because the adult will try to help you and not just ignore you.”

Politicians from all parties have been invited to attend, and they will be taught that errant bodily fluids can make everyone sick and are just ‘yukky’.

“We are happy to include the nation’s leaders in our toilet training sessions, and to remind them of the true purpose of bathrooms.”

Children will instruct politicians and their staffers that telling the truth is always important, even when that is difficult, and that it can be harmful to spread nasty rumours about someone behind their back.

“We are also confident that the series will put an end to participants bringing prostitutes into the corridors of power, because a 4-year-old doesn’t even know what a prostitute is.”

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds will not be shown on the ABC, because the politicians participating in the series are the ones currently dismantling the national broadcaster. Instead, the series will be aired after shows such as MKR, I’m A Celebrity and MAFS, because a direct correlation has been found between viewing scripted reality TV shows and voting amoral politicians back into power.

For fans of reality TV shows, they will also have the chance to ‘vote’ the participants off the show at the next election. Furthermore, producers plan to extend the program to state parliaments, where politicians can learn how to avoid physical relationships with people who have been involved in widespread corruption, and that the number 3 million is not the same as the number 30 million.

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds will air at the beginning of next month, and will be available on catch up services.

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds; because 4-year-olds are perfect role models for politicians”

Image: Katrina Knapp

Courage: Berta Caceres.

bertacaceres

Berta Caceres personified courage.

The Honduran environmental activist devoted much of her life to campaigning for the protection of the natural environment and indigenous people of her native land, and only stopped fighting when she was assassinated during a campaign.

Caceres fought for the protection of the natural environment in a country and a region plagued with corruption and impunity among politicians and big business, especially resource companies whose projects threatened the land she worked to protect. International organisation Global Witness once declared Honduras the most dangerous country in the world for protecting forests and rivers.

Caceres knew she faced enormous obstacles and danger. She knew she faced corruption at the highest levels. She knew she faced multinational companies operating with impunity and enormous budgets. She was reminded of these obstacles on a regular basis, throughout her activism, when she received death threats.

She was once quoted as saying;

“…When they want to kill me…they will do it.”

During the lengthy campaign for the Gualcarque River, the Honduran military opened fire on the group of protesters, killing one member. More protesters would be killed. Still Caceres fought.

Courage is encapsulated in the famous quote from Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, when Atticus says to Jem;

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Unfortunately for Caceres, and the land and the people she protected, the man with the gun in his hand had the backing of many powerful organisations. The company behind the proposed hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River, Desa, was eventually ruled to have organised the squad of seven men, yes seven, who carried out the hit on Caceres. A number of the hit squad had been trained by US Army special forces. Thus, it took seven armed men, some with specific military training, to silence one woman.

Caceres utilised her intelligence, her dedication and her courage to peacefully defend the natural environment. Not only did she fight, she often won. The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras which she co-founded and led staged many grass roots campaigns to protect the environment, indigenous people and women, before the action for the Gualcarque River.

Berta Caceres knew she faced enormous obstacles and danger, but she fought anyway. That is courage.

Image:www.goldmanprize.org